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Fearing the Future

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“Fears are stories we tell ourselves.”

Unknown

Above all of you lie a sentence with only six words included that sum up fear better than any phrase I have yet to see.  We are all afraid of something and many of us spend an exuberant amount of time focusing/fearing our futures.  We are afraid of not getting what we want and we are afraid of getting what we do not want.  I received an email recently from a young girl in college who has been following my blog for a couple years now.  She is a very kind, strong young person who has had chronic pain for a couple of years and is trying the best she can to manage her pain while working towards achieving a college degree in social work.  She asked me in her very encouraging email if I had remembered her and what my readers do not realize is that I find it very hard to forget any of you that reach out to me directly for help and support.  I am beyond flattered and amazed that so many people read my story because I do manage pain in an unconventional way. If I was the younger Jessica who was spending her days searching for a cure to chronic pain I would have never read a blog about a woman who has accepted chronic pain as part of her life and manages that pain naturally.  Then there are those of you who not only read my life story but you take the time out of your busy life that I know is not easy as you have an invisible illness to write me just to either say thank you and let me know that I have helped you or to ask me genuine questions.  You tell me your stories and you then see that I will never judge any of you for how you live your life or how you choose to manage your pain and you begin to trust me and many of you take some, if not all of my advice.  How could I forget any of your personal stories when I have not only lived/live your story but am astounded by your personal strength and gratitude.  With that said, of course I remember this young person who I am so very proud of and almost envious of in some ways.  She is in her young twenties and is in a place with her personal journey with chronic pain that I was not able to get to as early as she has.  However, she brought up to me some of her fears regarding her personal future and how she will be able to follow any of her dreams with this invisible illness: chronic pain.

When I was around the age of nineteen/twenty years of age I had more fears about my life than I had when I had brain surgery because of my bike accident.  I do not know what is worse living with chronic pain or the fear of pain itself and what we tell ourselves pain will steal from us.  I never thought I would have a family, be a mother, have a college degree or be the person sitting here writing about how I, Jessica Martin is managing pain naturally.  I  believed with my whole heart and soul that chronic pain had robbed me of everything I had ever wanted, desired or dreamed of.  I lived in pain and fear every second of every day.  The fear/anxiety made the pain worse and the pain made the fear/anxiety worse.  Ten plus years living in a never ending circle of pain and fear/fear and pain.  Turns out all the things I was fearing never happening because of chronic pain happened and all the things I feared of happening due to chronic pain never happened.  Do I have the life I would have had I never fallen off of my bike and chronic pain? No.  However, I have learned that fear of the unknown was just a story I made up in my head that caused me more emotional/physical pain that was truly unneeded.  Although, my life with chronic pain has taught me that fear is nothing but a story we tell ourselves, I still live in a lot of fear and that fear does have an impact on my pain levels.

I do not fear the things I used to fear when I was living in my darkest hours of chronic pain.  However, I am still a very worry filled person.  I spent most of my life being afraid and now I have to re-parent/re-teach my inner self to not be afraid for everything does work out.  I am not afraid of the little things in life that some may be afraid of.  I look forward to sky diving one day and I love roller coasters and haunted houses.  Those things do not scare me in the least, they excite me.  However, the big things in life scare me.  I still am afraid of the things I dream of happening not happening and the things I am afraid of happening coming to fruition.  Has my journey with chronic pain taught me nothing??  Everything I have ever feared not happening has happened just not  how I envisioned those certain life blessings to happen.    I know I need to let go and trust the process of life while working towards what I do what and I must stop living in a state of fear.  From childhood to adolescence to early adulthood up until my thirties I have had fear in my life and I did not know better and do not fault myself for those fears.  I do know better now.  However, to be fair to myself I am in the process of re -wiring a fear based mind into a peaceful, calm mind.   I can read and write as many quotes as I want to and I can logically know that fear is just a story I am telling myself but I am human and changing the way your mind works is a process.  Hell, it took me years to re-wire my brain from constantly focusing on pain.

This post is meant to thank the people who take time out of their day to remind me of what I am writing and remind me of my own personal story.  You are kind and generous enough to applaud me in how I have overcome so much and tell me what  an inspiration I am  to those who are living in fear due to chronic pain.  All of you are my teachers as well and I cannot thank you enough for your feedback and helping me in my own personal journey without even realizing what an impact you make in my life.  Thank you.

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Letting Go of What We Cannot Control

“Anything you can’t control is teaching you how to let go.”

Jackson Kiddard

As I was practicing yoga this morning two words stuck with me that I knew I wanted to grow from: flexibility and the art of allowing.  Many people believe that doing yoga is an exercise to tone the body into better health and better flexibility of the muscles and tissues that make up our individual bodies.  However, that is just a small portion of what the art of yoga really is.  Yes, yoga has helped tone my body and has become a great form of exercise, it has also helped me become more flexible physically.  Yoga is also teaching me how to become more flexible in places that are far more important than the outside of my body: my heart and mind.  I will be very honest.  I am not a very flexible person.  There is a very sound reason as to why I am not flexible: chronic pain.  I manage chronic pain naturally and have a routine I follow each day in order to manage pain without pain managing me.  I spent a decade of my life with chronic pain consuming my entire life.  I lived, breathed, and felt pain inside and out for every single day of what could have been the best years of my life: my teen years and my early twenties.  I was in doctor’s offices or getting operations while my friends were on their phones planning what to do for the weekend.  I probably spent as many hours in waiting rooms as I did college classes.  My life could have been defined as: “hurry up and wait for a cure.”  After coming close to just ending my entire life I found what saved me and that was the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where I learned how to manage pain naturally.  I have a routine I follow daily that helps me in so many ways manage my pain without a cure or medications.  I am living as opposed to barely surviving.  I had to let go of the idea that I would find a cure and surrender to the fact that I could live a happy, healthy life despite pain.  I have had to give up a lot in order to manage pain how I choose but I had nothing when I was looking for a cure so the benefits outweigh the negatives one thousand percent.

However, there are ways I am learning to be more flexible.  I am a mother and one huge lesson motherhood will teach you is how to be flexible.  Our family went away this past weekend to Atlantic City, NJ for a long snowed in weekend.  Yes, I packed yoga DVD’s and some healthy snacks.  However, I had to be flexible.  I stayed up much later than usual and ate things I would not normally eat.  My schedule was totally thrown off but I was having so much fun swimming and just chilling out in pajamas in our hotel room that I really did not think about pain despite not following my usual management of chronic pain.  I surrendered to just letting go and having fun making memories with the people I love.  I was able to get back on my schedule yesterday and I must say what I do does work.  With that said, there are ways I need to be more flexible in my mind and heart which will allow me to be more flexible in my life.  Our thoughts create our reality and I would like my thoughts to be more flexible.  Our mind is like a huge muscle and we can work out our biceps and triceps as much as we want but if we do not focus on what is inside our minds and hearts we will never be truly happy.  I am working on being more flexible and allowing the dreams I have to come into my world without forcing them.  One can work towards a dream or goal without it taking control over their entire existence.  Everything I have gone through in my thirty five years has been teaching me how to be flexible: body mind and spirit and how to allow things to happen while working towards what you most desire.

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Self Reflection and Chronic Pain

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“If you suffer it is because of you.  If you are blissful it is because of you.  No one else is responsible, only you and you alone.  You are your own hell and your own heaven too.”

Osho

I have had a few days where I have had to leave my comfort zone and just relax and rest.  If you know me, I am not a fan of resting and being still for too long.  I am the definition of an over thinker and having an invisible illness such as chronic pain has only intensified my roller coaster of thoughts.  After ten years of searching for a cure to chronic pain and finally finding a way to manage pain and live a life that makes me happy, it is very difficult for me to step away from the routine I am so accustomed to.  My day usually begins around five in the morning with stretches and exercise.  Of all the tools I use to manage chronic pain, exercise is definitely one of my favorites and most useful.  It helps with my chronic pain and my subsequent anxiety.  I stay busy throughout the day which is quite easy to do with a four year old daughter, work, and running a home that I am proud of.  My other favorite tool for managing chronic pain naturally is the utilization of distractions.  I train my brain to not think about pain and am usually quite successful in this exercise.  However, for the past few days I have been forced to rest in bed which on one hand has been very difficult.  I want to play with my daughter, run my errands, make dinner, and finish the damn laundry that has been sitting in the laundry room for two days.  I do not enjoy being vulnerable and relying on other people to help me and do things for me.  I begin to feel guilty, frustrated, and the little control freak buried inside me comes out in the silliest ways one can imagine.  For instance, I find it difficult to walk into my daughter’s playroom because I know it is not organized the ‘Jessica’ way.

On the other hand, the past few days have been a great lesson for me.  I have had to let things go and find distractions that have nothing to do with exercise and/or activity.  I have caught up on my favorite television shows, books, and even went back to my gratitude journal and began doing the exercises that are found in the book.  The book is entitled: “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  I have read the book but have never attempted to truly do the workbook that accompanies this very inspiring book.  The first three assignments were quite simple for me.  I was asked to write down fifty things I am grateful for: things from having food in the fridge to being blessed with a beautiful, happy daughter.  The second was to write down the five things I want in my life more than anything.  Number one on my list was to have more children: no brainer there.  The third exercise was to write down the things that I wanted to work on within myself to find more inner joy.  Ironically, this was the easiest exercise the workbook asked of me.  I wrote down so many things that I ran out of room  the page allotted  me.  Sadly, the fourth exercise was much more difficult than I thought it would be.  The exercise asked me to write down five things or more that I loved about myself: my gifts.  I came up with two right away: empathetic and funny.  I even felt a little guilty writing down funny.  It took me longer to find five things I am sincerely proud of about myself then it did to find fifty things I was grateful for.  No one else needs to read my simple abundance workbook so why was I so hesitant to write exactly how I do feel about myself?  Yes, there are things I want to work on and am working on but there are more than two things about myself I am proud of.  However, I felt some sense of ridiculous guilt putting them down on paper.  I learned that I need to own the things I feel good about regarding myself and my life.  I have worked hard to get where I am especially with chronic pain.  I have a lot to be proud of and should not feel ashamed for feeling good about those things in my life.  I focus more on the things I need to work on than the goals I have already achieved.

I believe this to be true: no matter where we are in our journey with chronic pain or life in general, we should be more focused on our gifts than our downfalls.  The more we focus on the good in ourselves, the easier it will be to work on the things we know need some help.  None of us are perfect and chronic pain makes life incredibly difficult at times but we all have special gifts that we need to start putting more focus on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Tears of Pain

8a0d1215ad669c518ccf7f9921b8ac48“I can explain it to you but I can’t understand it for you.”

Unknown

The topic of crying and chronic pain came up recently and the  question was asked: “Do you remember the first time you cried about your invisible illness, chronic pain?”  I racked my mind for days upon days trying to think of the first time I cried about pain and there are too many memories of overwhelming tears because of my invisible illness to even come close to remembering the first time I cried because of chronic pain.  I do not remember if I cried after I fell off of my bike in my early teens, resulting in brain surgery and months of recovery from my accident.  I am sure I did, I’m not superwoman but I have no recollection of being depressed or sad during the months I spent recovering from my fall.  To be honest I only remember good things: family members and friends visiting me, expressing their love and gratitude that I was alive and would be okay; flowers, cards, balloons, and gifts of all sorts; overwhelming amounts of attention and an outpour of affection from those I love the most in the world; and a calm sense that I had come very close to death and made it through something most people can never even imagine happening.  I remember fear but I have no recollection of sadness.  Granted, I was hooked up to machines and given many drugs for pain so I am sure that had a lot to do with it but I honestly remember peace and gratitude above all else.  My tears and heartache did not come until way after my accident when the invisible pain crept in like a robber in the middle of the night stealing much more than any personal belongings, this robber (also known as chronic pain) was stealing my life: something money cannot buy.

The first time I remember crying because of chronic pain was my junior year of high school.  I was sitting in social studies and one of my peers asked me why I was rubbing my face.  I had no idea I had been rubbing my face.  I later learned that massaging my face and head as I did, and sometimes still do is called a pain behavior.  A pain behavior is anything that brings attention to your pain.  I honestly had been rubbing my face and head for so many years that I had zero clue when or where I was demonstrating this pain behavior.  When one of my peers pointed it out in front of everyone in my class, I was mortified.  I had no answer.  I had never heard of the term chronic pain and had no idea why I was in pain.  I went home from school that day and swore I would never massage my face again but one hour later I was cognizant of the fact that as I was trying with all my might to do my homework, I had one hand on my face.  I ran up to my room in a fit of tears, scared as to what was happening to my body.  It was at that moment I believed I was going crazy.  That thought would last for the next ten years.

The second time I truly remember crying was in my freshman year of college.  I was in denial that I had a serious illness despite the fact that it was not visible and was trying to do it all.  I was trying to balance my first year away from home, a full schedule in school attempting to get straight A’s, and searching for a cure to the pain I was feeling.  I was either found behind my computer, taking breaks to cry in my bunk bed because  pain was taking me away from concentrating on my books or computer; in doctor’s offices getting various surgeries and or medications, or out with my friends trying to numb my pain by way of drinking.  I never told people I was going to the doctors or having surgery.  I thought my friends would think I was crazy.  With each medication, treatment or surgery my pain only got worse.  As my pain got worse, my depression and anger intensified until I could no longer take school, relationships, or doctors.  I spent my days crying in bed wishing I had any other life than the one I had.

I ended up going to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where I spent three months seeing every doctor the facility had to offer.  I had about four doctor appointments a day.  I spent those months in a hotel room becoming more and more distraught as nothing worked.  One day, my main doctor there called me and asked me to come in for a meeting with himself and his nurse.  I could hear, by the sound of his voice that nothing good was going to come of this meeting.  As I took a bus to the meeting, I felt as if I was walking down my own death row just waiting for my sentence of life to be over for good.  The Neurologist explained to me that I had a condition called chronic pain that was most likely correlated to my bike accident that happened in my young teens.  This was the very first time I had heard the term: chronic pain.  What he said next took my breath away.  He said: “Jessica, you have chronic pain and unfortunately there is no magic cure, medication, or surgery to take away your pain.  However, there is a program here at the Mayo Clinic called the Pain Rehab Center that helps people with chronic pain learn how to manage pain naturally and teaches people how to live a fulfilling life despite pain.”  I was in SHOCK.  I remember screaming through copious amounts of tears: “NO, NO, NO!  I will not accept pain.  I would rather die than live in pain the rest of my life.  I hate you.  I hate pain. I hate my life.  Why me??  I did not come here for this!!! I came here for help!!!  Pain had destroyed ten years of my life and you want me to live with pain?!  Hell no!”  I stormed out of his office and when I looked back through my tears I saw that the nurse was crying as well.  I went back to my hotel room and laid in bed for days.  I did not cry.  I was numb.  I did not get out of bed for anything, not even food.  I laid in the dark with no television, curtains drawn, willing myself to sleep but pain and anxiety had taken over my entire body.  I was done.  Days later I finally accepted a phone call from my dad who begged me to consider going into the Pain Rehabilitation Program.  I would have done anything for my dad and I finally agreed to go.  I will never forget the days I spent in that dreary hotel room laying in a bed millions of other people had laid in wishing my life away.  That is pain.

If you have read my story you know that the Pain Rehabilitation Program saved my life.  Yes, I still have chronic pain but I no longer allow it to control my happiness.  There are certain times I am more aware of pain than others but I have been managing pain naturally for years and although I do not have the life I had planned exactly, I have a life I am proud of and grateful for.  I think there will always be times I cry because of chronic pain but the tears do not last and I am very happy for the most part.  No matter how hard I try and remember the first time I cried because of chronic pain is like asking me what happens after we pass, I have no idea.  I spent over a decade in tears and am just very grateful that pain no longer has that power over my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Empathy and Chronic Pain

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“I love when people that have been through hell walk out of the flames carrying buckets of water still consumed by the fire.”

-Stephanie Sparkles

There is a huge misconception that people with chronic pain want, thrive even off of pity.  Many believe those with chronic pain want to be coddled and treated somewhat like a baby.  I have had many people say to me: “Oh my, so young to be diagnosed with such a disease. I feel so badly for you.  Why did you have to fall off of that bike at such a young age.  Its such a sin.”  I know logically that people’s hearts are in the right places and they truly feel for me and others who have an invisible illness.  However, I never wanted pity from anyone even when I was at my lowest point with chronic pain.  I definitely do not want any pity now at a time in my life when I have been managing chronic pain so well for such a long time and have tried as hard as I possibly can to find the good in my accident and life with chronic pain.

The Oxford Dictionary defines pity as: the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.  I do not want people to view me as a suffering thirty five year old who has had the terrible misfortune of falling off of her bike at a young age leading her to a life to chronic pain.  However, I do want encouragement and at times empathy.  The terms pity and empathy are not alike whatsoever.  The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  People always ask me what helped me the most in my journey with chronic pain.  I learned so much at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  I learned from doctors, physical therapists, nutritionists, etc. on how to manage pain naturally and not allow pain to take over my existence.  I learned that I could live the life of my dreams despite not finding a cure to chronic pain.  However, the best part of the program was the empathy I received from the people who were also in the program.   I became friends with people of all ages, races, genders, from all over the country.  On the surface most of us looked like your average American but we had one HUGE thing in common: we all had a form of chronic pain and for most of us our pain was not visible.  For ten years no one understood how I felt inside as pain after a long time becomes not just physical but emotional as well.  I was one hundred percent alone for a third of my life.  I was a turtle who only came out of her shell when she was desperate enough to spend time with people just as not to be alone in her pain for a few minutes or hours. The Pain Rehab Center at the Mayo Clinic allowed me to come out of my very hard, broken shell for weeks.  I was no longer alone.  I was understood and able to share my feelings/emotions with others who did not pity me but empowered me to keep going despite chronic pain.

There are challenges I face now and I do not share them with many people because the last thing in the world I ever want again is pity from friends and family no matter what my difficulties may be.  I want to be encouraged and empowered.  Pity does nothing but make another person feel worse than he or she already feels.  I love knowing people believe in me and believe in my dreams.  I do not want to hear: “I am sorry you are going through this or that.”  I want to hear: “Jessica, you are so strong.  You got this.  I have every ounce of faith in you and I am here if you need anything.”  You do not always have to be in someone’s shoes to express empathy or encouragement.  The greatest thing you can say to a loved one with chronic pain is: “I have no idea how you deal with this invisible illness every day.  You are so strong and I am so proud of you.  I am always here for you.  I believe you, you are never alone.”

A quote always sticks in my head when I write about empathy and I will close this article with this: “I do not want you to save me.  I want you to stand by me as I save myself.”

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Being Judged Because I “don’t look sick”

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This is exactly what someone looks like with chronic pain.  This picture was taken at a place called, Long Wood Gardens which is where we spent my dad’s past birthday.  To people walking by who do not know me would never believe I have chronic pain.  I am trying to go back in time and visualize this picture fifteen years ago when I looked nothing like this and my world was spiraling out of control due to chronic pain.  If twenty-one year old Jessica saw this mother and daughter at a well known garden exhibit, she probably would have cried wishing she could be the person seen above.   The Jessica of past would never have thought this Jessica has chronic pain and would have been filled with jealously just at the fact that this person seen above was a smiling, happy mother spending the day with her family.  Twenty something Jessica would have thought: “Sure, maybe this in shape, happy mom isn’t perfect but I would give my right arm to have her life.  If this lady could live with pain like I do for just one day she would never be able to have a beautiful daughter and be happy at a place like this.  I’ll never have anything like this girl.”

I wish I could tell my younger self that one day she would be the woman she sees who is smiling a real smile, healthy, and a mother of a more than beautiful daughter.  I am misunderstood on a weekly if not daily basis.  It was easier for people to believe I had chronic pain when I was forty pounds heavier, depressed, unhealthy, and at the doctors for pain at least three times a week.  I never worked out a day in my life until I was the age of twenty-two.  I never ate extremely healthy.  I could do keg stands with the best of them and my idea of a healthy dinner was pizza with broccoli on top.  People who know the Jessica I am now have a very hard time believing me when I tell them of my past because of how dedicated to health I am.  I used to hear whispers at the gym when people did not realize I could hear them over their headphones: “That girl says she has chronic pain but there is no way she does.  It is probably just for attention.  If I was in a lot of pain I would not be able to run on the treadmill or lift a weight.”  Hearing comments like such or knowing that some people do not believe me used to infuriate me but not so much anymore.  I used to feel the need to justify myself which takes a LOT of energy and is a total waste of time.  When asked or confronted on how I was able to do things when I had ‘chronic pain’ I used to go into my entire story: “Believe it or not, I exercise and live the way I do because of chronic pain.  I spent ten years searching for a cure and taking tons of medications for pain until I wanted to end my life and ended up at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where I learned to manage pain naturally.  They taught me to exercise correctly, and physical therapy taught me about weight lifting and the importance of strength training.  If I did not exercise or do all the things I do for my natural management of chronic pain I would be a total wreck just like I was in my young twenties.  You should see pictures of me from back then.”  This is literally a paragraph I would say on a daily basis: at least once a day.

Then I woke up.  I began to realize that the more and more I justified my invisible illness, the more I was focusing on my pain.  I spent years working on not focusing on pain and now I was spending an hour a day justifying myself to people who I was not even close to.   People are going to judge you no matter what: invisible illness or no invisible illness.  I truly believe people talk about other people as a way to not have to deal with their own problems.  I know.  I used to be one of those people.  You have no need to justify yourself to ANYONE.  The only person you need to improve for or impress is YOU.  We need to be more concerned with how we feel about ourselves and less concerned with how other’s feel about us.  It is your life, your health, and your happiness.  Do not waste the energy that some of you fight damn hard for on other people’s opinions of you and your life.  Never forget that everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

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My Three Lives in Pain

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“My illness isn’t really invisible.  If you look closely enough you can see how much it has changed my life.”

Unknown

My bike accident occurred when I was in my young teen years.  I feel as if I have led three different lives during my thirty five years in this amazing world.  The first thirteen are somewhat difficult to remember.  My earliest memories are with my dad taking bike rides to the park and playing kickball with my friends in our front yard.  Some great memories stick out and some terrible memories are there that I will never forget.  I was a kid with an enormous zest for life.  Despite not having the “perfect” childhood, I have more great memories than bad memories and my family did the best they could to provide me with a joyous childhood.  No one would have imagined the events that occurred during the ten years that followed my bike accident.  I remember the day I fell as if it was yesterday, down to the taste of the pink mint that I was chewing when the front tire of my bicycle got twisted with the bag I was carrying and my body went directly into a stone wall.  The damages that occurred on that day would affect the next two thirds of my life.

For the following ten years I would be a totally different person than I was during my first thirteen years here in this world.   As many of my readers know, my accident resulted in brain surgery to remove a blood clot and many other injuries that had me in critical condition for a few weeks and then bed bound for a few months.  I do not remember the pain from my surgery nor being extremely upset about losing three months of summer.  I remember fear but not pain.  I was doted on for months as everyone was beyond happy I was alive and healthy.  I received flowers, presents, cards, balloons, and because I was unable to walk up the stairs my dad gave me a bell to use whenever I needed something.  Once my scars healed and my hair grew back, I believed that my life would go back to the way it was pre-bike accident: not perfect, but happy.  I could not have been more wrong.  Brain surgery was nothing compared to the pain I would endure for the second portion of my life.  I looked pretty much like the Jessica I had been before my fall except for all the fun things that come with puberty like pimples and oily skin but I was in more physical pain than I had ever endured; the difference was that the pain was no longer visible.  I can remember the exact moment I began noticing the pain.  I was sitting in my Seventh Grade Social Studies class and a classmate asked me why I was rubbing my face and neck.  I had gotten so used to massaging the pain I felt that I started doing it constantly.  For the next ten plus years I would search for a cure to chronic pain.  The term chronic pain was not used during this time and every doctor and specialist I saw was mystified by my condition.  I was miserable, confused, in pain, and filled with a desperation for relief that no words can describe.  I tried everything to the point that if someone started a question with the words: “Have you tried……” I would stop them before they could finish because I truly had tried EVERYTHING.  Fast forward a few years and despite my huge passion to get my college degree, I dropped out after two and half years and drove to Boulder, CO to drown my pain in partying with friends.  I was the fun girl who was always up for having drinks or taking random road trips to Vegas.  I surrounded myself with people who loved to drink and party so that I could finally “fit in” with people as I had during the first third of my life.   I was the life of the party on the outside but inside I had never been more unhappy.  I came to a point that I not only hated my physical pain but I hated myself.  I hit a rock bottom that was harder than the wall I fell into that started this whole mess.

My friends in Colorado began to notice that I was not as okay as I appeared to be.  I was no longer the life of the party.  I was at the party but with each drink I cried more about the physical pain no one understood, not even me.  A good friend saw that I was heading somewhere bad fast and believed me when I said I was in severe pain despite the fact that the pain was not visible.  He believed me and that belief saved my life.  I ended up driving to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where the third portion of my life would begin.  After two months of seeing every specialist possible and undergoing every test possible, I was told that I had chronic pain and there was no magic cure to my invisible illness.  I am not sure I have ever cried as hard as I cried when the words: chronic pain and no cure came out of this brave doctor’s mouth.  Under his guidance and advice, he got me into the Pain Rehabilitation Center at the Mayo Clinic where I learned how to manage and live with chronic pain naturally.  I went unwillingly at first but deep down I knew I was headed for death if I did not try one last thing.  The first week was brutal and I did not say a word to anyone.  Then something clicked.  I started listening to the people around me whom also had chronic pain.  Their pain, like mine was mostly invisible as well.  I was no longer alone.  Chronic pain does not discriminate and I became close to people I never would have talked to because despite races and age, I had more in common with the people in my chronic pain group than I had with anyone in the world.  My entire life changed during the next three months.  I learned how to live with chronic pain and manage it without medications or treatments.  I began to live again as opposed to merely surviving.  I was alive.  I stopped hating myself and began to embrace life and follow my dreams.

I was petrified to go back to Colorado and wanted nothing to do with the lifestyle I had been living there.  I was healthy.  I had learned that I could be a healthy, happy person despite chronic pain.  However, I had to change my entire lifestyle.  I was exercising, eating healthy, reading again, writing, and wanted nothing to do with drinking or anything that could affect my chronic pain management routine.  I lost a lot of friends.  I was not the same Jessica I had been prior to going to the Mayo Clinic.  I went from being the life of the party to the girl who was in bed reading by eight o’clock and awake by five am exercising.  I was one of the most “boring” twenty-two year olds in college.  No one understood me and I was asked constantly to go to this party or that party but I had to say no even though I knew I was losing the group of friends I had once counted on to get me through the night.  I had to be selfish.  I had to focus on my health.  I spent a year in Denver, Colorado practicing the techniques I learned at the Mayo Clinic every day of the week: no exceptions.  I needed that year to totally focus on my health and my new way of living.   I then went back to school in Denver, CO and did get my college degree in Social Work.  I loved learning how to help people so much that I ended up graduating at the top of my class and once I stopped resisting pain, everything began to fall into place.  I am now thirty-five years old and there have been bumps in the road in my journey with chronic pain but nothing like the life I led for the second half of my life.

If you have chronic pain I want you to know that you are not crazy and you are not alone.  I spent a third of my life living in hell, wanting to scream and cry every second of every day.  I wanted to tear my entire face and head off just to get rid of the pain.  I did not have hope because I knew no one who understood what I was going through.   There was no light at the end of the tunnel.  I understand that you may be in the worst possible place mentally and physically but I need you to have hope.  There may not always be a way out but there is a way through.  I promise you.  If I can live a happy life despite pain, anyone can.  Don’t worry, I probably would not have believed myself either if I read this fifteen years ago but at least know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the light is very bright.

 

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